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March 20, 2018

Rory McIlroy

Austin, Texas

MODERATOR: We'd like to welcome Rory McIlroy to the interview room. It must have been so long since you've been in a media center. Thanks for coming back in.

RORY McILROY: You're very welcome.

MODERATOR: Great to see you back in the match play. Your thoughts going into the week, a couple of comments on your bracket and obviously playing very well.

RORY McILROY: Yeah, it's good to be back at the match play. I've always enjoyed this format. I've always enjoyed this tournament, whether it was in Arizona, San Francisco, here in Austin. I've enjoyed it.

I feel like I've got a pretty good record. I've got to the final once. I won once. I got to the semifinal here a couple of years ago. So I've had a couple of deep runs in the tournament. And hopefully I can do that again this week.

Yeah, I watched a little bit of that bracket special last night. Yeah, three guys I don't really -- I've played a little bit with Brian Harman, might have played once or twice with Johnny Vegas and the same with Peter Uihlein. I know a little bit about their games, but I guess you've just got to take it one person as a time and one match at a time and try to win and move on. And that's really it.

But feeling good about my game, obviously. And hopefully it's another good week for me.

Q. You've won a lot around the world but where did that rank on Sunday?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, I mean it was a great win, but I think just under the circumstances and everything that the way I played and the way I handled the back nine on Sunday, I said it after, it was one of the best rounds of golf that I've played. And probably -- it was better than the 62 at Quail Hollow, I think. I was trying to think of other rounds of golf where it's been like that.

Q. (No microphone.)
RORY McILROY: Yeah, it was up there. It was right up there with Kiawah on Sunday. Back nine of -- it was up there where I needed to execute shots coming down the stretch and I did. I hit different shots, held putts, chipped in and did everything that I needed to do. Yeah, right up there with the best I've played.

Q. After your victory on Sunday you spoke about the input that Brad Faxon gave you regards to your putting. In speaking to you in the days before, you said that the week of the Valspar, and you spoke about the fact of how quickly you can bounce back from an intensive practice session. How important was that intensive practice session in the bigger picture last week?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, obviously very important. I've always been able to turn negatives into positives. And I've always been able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, even if other people can't.

And I had a good practice session Saturday morning at The Bear's Club after missing the cut in Tampa. Went out and played nine holes, shot 5-under for those nine holes. Went out the next day, had another good practice session, shot another 4-under for nine holes. I played 18 holes at The Bear's Club, and shot 9-under. It was like, if I can do this here, there's no reason why I can't drive up to Orlando and do it again.

But that's been the story of the season. I feel like it's been like that, it's just trying to translate it from weekends at home to doing it when you need to. But, yeah, having Michael was key. We worked on a few things. And I went with the feeling that felt quite comfortable going into last week. And I'll hopefully continue to have that feeling for a while.

Q. This proving people wrong feature in your motivational thoughts, because it's the nature of the sport and a lot of people were asking what's happened to Rory, does that fuel you in any way or do you not care?
RORY McILROY: I don't care because people don't know the full story. I think that's the thing, they made comments and they speculate. But they don't have the facts 100 percent so they never really know. It's all speculation.

So, no, I'm not in this game to prove people wrong. I'm here to win. I've learned a long time ago I can't please everyone. There's going to be people that like how you do things, don't like how you do things and I can't change their opinion, so I just have to go and do the best that I can. And hopefully when I do try my best and do my best, I'm able to produce results like you saw on Sunday.

Q. Sunday night was a celebration or more like --
RORY McILROY: It was two glasses of wine and a big bowl of ice cream. That was it. And I watched the highlights, but I fell asleep before the fireworks started on the 15th. Just tired.

Q. Brad Faxon mentioned something about Wayne Rooney. Can you explain what that was?
RORY McILROY: We were talking about different sports. And he was talking about a free throw shooter in basketball or he was trying to say even something you relate it to with football back home or whatever.

And I actually said when I spent a bit of time -- we're talking about triggers, how do you start your putting stroke. How do you start your putting stroke, whether it's -- everyone has different ways to start their swings or strokes. And I sort of said Rooney, before he hits a free kick or before he hits a penalty, he taps his toe on the ground before he actually starts his run up. And I sort of noticed it when I shot a Nike commercial with him a few years ago. That was really what it was.

Q. What's your trigger?
RORY McILROY: I don't know. I do something, whether it's regrip or wiggle my toes or I don't know.

Q. I wanted to ask you how you balance drawing on past failures and the importance of forgetting them?
RORY McILROY: That's a really good question. Firstly, you have to draw on past failures and try to figure out a way to make it a learning experience and learn from it. But then I think once you've learned from it and put that into practice, you have to forget about what happened before. Or maybe not forget about what happened before, but focus on what you need to do for it not to happen again.

I think feeling is one of the keys to getting better. And the failures that I've had in my career have definitely helped me become a better golfer. And I think they're very important. If you never fail at anything, I don't think you're trying hard enough. Your failures, it's important, but I think you have to learn from it, but you have to leave it there and move on and focus on what you need to put right the next time when you get yourself in that situation.

Q. (No microphone.)
RORY McILROY: Yes, it could be that. It could be I missed a really short putt first ever playoff in my career in Crans-sur-Sierre in 2008 in the playoff, and I learned from that to take my time again. So there's loads of different things. But you just make sure that you don't do it again.

Q. When you're over that putt the next time, you're not thinking about what you did --
RORY McILROY: No, you're thinking about what you need to do to hole that putt, but you're making sure that you take your time.

I had a putt to get into a playoff later year in Hong Kong, that it was a similar sort of thing. And, yes, you think about what happened in Crans, but you're more thinking about what you need to do to not let that happen again.

Q. Jordan Spieth has got a big wedding coming up later on this year. You just went through the big wedding thing yourself last year. Do you give him some advice on how to do the big wedding thing but still concentrate on your job here?
RORY McILROY: No, I'm giving him advice about the bachelor party (laughter). That's what I'm giving him advice about.

No, Jordan and I haven't really spoken about it. I saw that he and Annie got engaged at the end of last year and it was great for them. But, no, if he -- I'm sure he's got a lot of people around him giving him advice, he doesn't need one more.

Q. Is it nice to have your game going so well with the Masters coming up? And also, have you found it harder to finish off the slam than it was to win that first major?
RORY McILROY: Obviously I'm very happy to have my game in this shape going into the first major of the year. Even if I hadn't won last week, just to see the signs that my golf game was in good shape would be good enough to me knowing that going into Augusta I was ready to play well.

And, yeah, I've had three goes at winning the slam. This will be my fourth. I'd had maybe 12 or 13 majors before I won my first one. So you could say that the first one was maybe a little bit harder. I just needed a few more chances.

But I only get one opportunity a year at Augusta. The last three years have went okay. I've played well. Not well enough. And hopefully I put the last piece of the puzzle in there this year and get it done.

Q. Shifting to the match play, have you encountered a lot of gamesmanship over your career in matches? And if so, is it something that you have fed off of or learned from or just found humor in?
RORY McILROY: Yeah, honestly I haven't found -- I mean I've never really tried to -- I mean I don't know if I've ever really tried to sort of put any gamesmanship on anyone. I might make someone hole a really short putt from time to time or give them a few sort of three-footers and then make them putt one further along the match. Not particularly.

There's some guys, especially with this bracket format, it's a bit of a different deal, right? So there might be guys that you chat and sort of talk the whole way around and it's a friendly, cordial match, or there's guys that would prefer not to. But I guess I haven't come across anyone that's tried to really put anything on me. So, yeah, I don't know.

Patrick Reed isn't in my bracket (laughter).

Q. Given how much Arnie liked banana splits, I think he would have wholly approved of your ice cream celebration. Didn't he force you to eat one once?
RORY McILROY: Two. We enjoyed the first one so much, we got another.

Q. I wanted to ask you, for a while you went away from reading yardage books on the greens, you were going by feel and not reading your notes on putts, is that --
RORY McILROY: Yeah, sometimes -- so I have Harry Caray, the green contour book. And I'll refer to it sometimes if I feel I need it or if I want to double check that it looks like it might go right at the hole, let me just check that. And obviously you refer to the book and say, no, it doesn't, the slope is going this direction or this way and at this percentage.

So it's more of a reference. When I carry it myself, I find I get into the habit of taking it out on every green and just looking at it needlessly. So I let him -- and if I need it I'll ask him, say, can I see the book? I maybe refer to it three or four times a round. But if that book can help you one shot a tournament, obviously it's worth it.

Q. Does that change at Augusta because of the nature of the greens?
RORY McILROY: No, at Augusta it's the same thing, you're always trying to find the straight putt. The best way to read putts is to find the straight and then try to work off there. So you're always looking for the straight putt.

So you'll refer to your notes a little bit and see where those straight putts are, where you've hit them from before in the past.

Augusta don't provide you with a green contour book, like the other tournaments do, so you've got to sort of figure it out yourself.

Q. You said even though you weren't getting the results that you wanted, you still had an attitude of optimism going into Bay Hill. Obviously Sunday you did get the result you wanted. So now your attitude just a couple of days removed heading into this tournament is what?
RORY McILROY: Even more optimism. Just more validation that what I've been doing has been correct and the work that I put in in the off-season. It all sort of just came together. I stayed really patient.

I thought after five holes on Sunday, it might not be my day. I was even par through 5. I missed a few chances. I was four behind Henrik. But I kept telling myself, stay patient, and give yourself chances, and you'll hopefully click into place or you'll get a little bit closer.

And, yeah, validation and optimism that I can go ahead and do this more often. I feel like I've crossed that line that I needed to. I hadn't won in the past 18 months and it was a real -- yeah, validation and I'm optimistic. Not just the next few weeks but the whole season. It's great to get a win early. And I've got all that great stuff to fall back on on how I handled stuff on Sunday.

Q. Does that mean you feel like you're the favorite here, and is there a sleeper that we should lookout for?
RORY McILROY: I think it's always hard to call, 18-hole match play -- I've always liked this tournament because it's the least pressured event of the year because anyone can beat anyone in 18 holes. The field is the top guys in the world. You don't have any easy matches. But over 18 holes -- I remember Dove Mountain one year, Ben Crane was 7-under through 9 and beat me 8 and 7 or 8 and 6 or something. I'm like, I guess I'll go home. So you can run into someone like that that just has a really good day. Or you can get a little bit of luck of the draw on the guys that you play against don't play that good.

I remember the next year I think for the first three rounds I played like Miguel Jimenez, Andrews Hansen and one other the first three rounds, and I think I was even par for those three days. And I won every match. If I had been against anyone else in the field, I was going home. And I got to the final that year.

So that's the subtlety of match play and it just depends on the guy that you're up against that day. So it's hard to pick a favorite. You've got the guys that are playing well, they're going to be hard to beat. And the guys that have played well at this golf course before. I don't know, really, it would be like picking a name out of a hat to try to choose a sleeper for you.

Q. Is there a situation where your opponent in match play matters in your mind or are you solely focused on yourself that it really doesn't matter?
RORY McILROY: No, I think it does matter. It could be pace of play. It could be -- maybe you don't like the rhythm of their golf swing. Maybe it puts you off a little bit. You don't look at them.

There's a lot of things that can happen in match play where I feel like it's that human element that you don't have in stroke play. You have to adapt. You have to react to what he does. So that's the way I've always played match play, I've always just reacted to what the guy in front of me does and hopefully -- and it's served me well. I feel like my match play record has been pretty good. And I thrive in that environment. But everyone is different. Some people just try and zone out and play the golf course and not think about it but I'd rather it be the other way.

Q. Someone mentioned advice to Jordan. Is there any advice you'd give Jordan facing Patrick?
RORY McILROY: Don't ask for any drops (laughter).

No, they're both good match play players. They're Ryder Cup teammates. They've played in teams before. They're foursome partners. Who knows. Just go out and play better than he does.

Q. When you look at the players who are considered good match play specifically golfers, yourself included, can you find a personality trait that people have in common or anything on the mental side that sort of explains why they're good at it?
RORY McILROY: I don't know. I don't know if it's a personality thing or -- I mean, yeah, I think with match play, if you were to look at one statistic on the PGA Tour that would tell you who's going to do well this week, if you go to the bounce back stat and see how people do after making a bogey in stroke play, for example. It's the same thing here, if you lose a hole how do you react to that. So I think the bounce back stat in match play, if you were to go down and look at the bounce back percentage of the players on tour, that would give you a pretty good idea of how players are going to do this week.

Yeah, people that are okay with adversity. People that don't mind having to react to things. That's what makes a good match player. Actually like my bounce back stats have always been pretty good. I'll make a bogey, fine. But focus on the next hole and try to do well there.

MODERATOR: Good luck this week.

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